The Photo Marketing Association trade show (usually referred to as “PMA”) is one of the photographic industry’s largest and most important meetings, a platform used by most companies to release their newest products to the public. This year’s gathering, held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, proved to be one of the most vibrant and exciting in the show’s history, with the promise of digital photography’s power and affordability finally matched by the range of products available to both the consumer and professional alike.
In years-gone-by, digital imaging hung over the show as both a promise and a threat. The advantages of the technologies were clear, yet for many pros the transition from the comfortable confines of the film workflow to a new work environment was terrifying. To make matters worse, digital hadn’t yet caught up to film in terms of image quality or in its workflow, yet photographers felt compelled to switch in order to keep pace with competitors, and with the needs of clients.
This year things finally seem to be in place, however: The question is no longer “will film disappear from mainstream photography” but rather when will it do so. Certainly film isn’t likely to be completely discarded — fine art and commercial shooters will continue with the medium for decades, and much the way that vinyl became reborn as a tool for DJs, many creative professionals will continue to use it as long as it’s available.
For Mac users, the Digital Hub has become part of life, with photography one of the star components. MacCentral took to the halls of the Las Vegas PMA show in order to gauge the status of all-things-photographic and check out the imaging component of the hub. Here, then, is our overview of new product and technology highlights from the show:
Foveon’s X3 sensor works differently than most digital photographic devices. A “traditional” digital sensor spreads out a mix of red, green and blue pixels across the imaging sensor, using complex math and some guesses to figure out the RGB value at each pixel based on what the neighboring pixels are dong. The Foveon chip has three layers, each of which record one of the RGB colors. This — at least in theory — leads to images with much greater color accuracy. Up until now, this has only been available in a SLR style camera, which is a pricey way for most people to try out the technology. Now Polaroid is releasing a compact digital camera featuring the sensor. The x530 is a 4.5 megapixel camera using the X3 sensor, which will retail for $399 when it ships in June.
Nikon took the wraps of a number of new cameras before PMA (the D70 and 8700) but held off until the show to announce the Coolpix 5200 and 4200, two incredibly small and light point-and-shoot cameras sporting five and four megapixel sensors, respectively. Both feature a 3x optical zoom lens, and use SD media for image storage in addition to their built-in 12MB internal memory.
Canon unleashed a barrage of new products at the show, starting with the much talked-about EOS 1D Mark II. The successor to the EOS 1D, the Mark II has an 8.2 megapixel sensor and can capture 8.5 frames per second up to 45 frames. The new Mark II is expected to cost around $4,500 when it ships later this year.
Canon also announced a brace of new lenses for the EOS line, the EF-28-300 f/3.5-5.6L IS USM Lens and the compact EF70-300 f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM Zoom.
In the consumer space, Canon announced the EOS Elan 7N and 7NE film cameras, an the 8 megapixel PowerShot Pro 1 ($999, April), and the combo still and video cam the PowerShot S1 IS, which can capture 3.2 megapixel images, plus 640×480 video at 30fps using it’s 10x optical zoom lens.
Renovating the Digital Elph line, Canon introduced the five megapixel S500 as well as the four megapixel S40 and the ultra-compact SD110.
The company also introduced the i990, a new photo printer with eight colors (adding red and green to the CMKY color set) and the i80 mobile printer.
Olympus too displayed an array of new cameras, including the C-8080 Wide Zoom. This eight-megapixel camera boasts a 5x optical lens combined with a 3x digital zoom, for a 15x “seamless” zoom. The digital zoom, when activated, automatically kicks in at the end of the optical lens’ range. The $999 camera should be available later this month.
The C-7070 Ultra Zoom features a “seamless” 10x optical lens, combined with a 4x digital (for a 38-380mm equivalent) with a 4.0 megapixel sensor. The C-7070 should carry a street price of $599.
The company also showed the waterproof Stylus 410 Digital, a 4 megapixel body that’s completely protected against the elements. Even the microphone is waterproof, allowing for shooting in inclement weather. An additional housing (PT-016) will allow the camera to be taken to depth.
Kodak replaced their DCS Pro 14n Digital SLR camera with the Pro SLR/n, and updated body featuring a redesigned sensor, new photo detector shape and upgrades to provide better image quality and power management. The camera captures 1.7 frames per second at an ISO range of 6 to 800 and can shoot at full 14 megapixel resolutions, or a reduced 6 or 3 megapixel setting. The Pro SLR/n features both CompactFlash and MMC/SD interfaces, and a FireWire port for image transfer. The Pro SLR/n is based on a custom designed Nikon body.
Also using a Nikon chassis for their pro body is Fujifilm with their new S3. The “SuperCCD” camera uses a Fuji-designed sensor to capture two bits of data at each pixel (a hybrid of the way the Foveon chip senses all three colors at each pixel and a normal sensor captures only one) and yields a 12 megapixel image. Fuji’s design allows the camera to capture information in both the highlight and the shadow, theoretically providing images with greater dynamic range. Pricing and availability were not set at the show.
The company’s new FinePix S20 is billed as a 6.2 megapixel update to the S7000, though in actuality this camera is recording two bits of data off each of the 3.1 million pixels, but those pixels aren’t capturing any additional data. Still, the new sensor design promises to capture better dynamic range. The S20 will be available in April, though pricing was not set.
Newly formed Konica Minolta meanwhile unveiled the new DiMAGE A2, an 8 megapixel digital camera using anti-shake technology and a focus system that Minolta says is 1.5 times faster than the one in the A1. Konica Minolta also announced the DiMAGE Z2, which is an update to the Z1 and now features a four-megapixel sensor. The new DiMAGE Xg has a new lens design, larger LCD monitor, faster movies, and improved startup time for the ultra-compact digital.
Sony’s new DSC-W1 is a $400 five-megapixel camera in a stylish black or silver body, while four new teeny CyberShot cameras feature four or vie megapixel sensors and a variety of fixed and zooming lens options.
For the high-end studio photographer, Sinar Bron’s new SinarBack 54M is an attractive digital solution for medium format photography. The 54M is a 22 megapixel digital back that’s smaller than a traditional roll film holder. The company has designed the new back focusing on image quality rather than speed of capture. The back, which is powered by any of the 12V photographic batteries on the market, operates at 12.5 MHz in order to process images with low noise.
The company has designed this back to work in conjunction with the Sinar Action Module, a compact computer-as-display-screen tool for capturing, previewing and organizing up to 1500 images on a single dockable hard drive.
Film and Digital Film
Surprisingly, some new films were announced at this heavily digital show. Kodak unveiled three new professional and four consumer films.
Big Yellow also announced a new kiosk system tied into the company’s ofoto.com. An update to the system will allow ofoto customers to access their online photo albums from any networked kiosk, allowing them to print out photos from retail locations, order prints online for local delivery and more.
Several digital film vendors announced new products for PMA. Sony and SanDisk and Lexar announced faster Memory Stick products, Pretec announced 80X CompactFlash cards, and SanDisk announced a 4GB CompactFlash card that’s able to work as a FAT16 device in older digital cameras.
Lexar seemed to trump these individual announcements with an 8GB CompactFlash card (at 40x), an 80X series of CF cards ranging from 256MB to 4GB, and a 1GB SD card that operates at 60X.
Moab Paper’s new Kayenta paper joins the company’s Entrada lineup of double-sided fine art papers. The new Kayenta is 60 percent of the cost of Entrada, but provides a similar coating and texture. The double-sided coating allows the paper to function as a low-cost proofing media with the same characteristics as the more expensive Entrada line.
Ilford too had new papers on display, with new media in the Gallerie line including a Smooth Fine Art, Smooth High Gloss, and Double Sided Matte.
Delkin’s new 32 bit PCMCIA CompactFlash, SD and Memory Stick adapters double the throughput of most card adapters, resulting in transfers faster than possible with external card readers. The CF reader retails for $59.99 while the SD and Memory Stick models are $79.95.
Kata Bags rolled out a series of interconnected cameras backpacks that are as well made as they are attractive. The Rucksack combines with other members of the F-System to create a completely modular photographic system.
The company’s new computer bag is designed specifically for the 17″ Powerbook and features protective ribs that keep the laptop from coming in direct contact with the exterior shell of the bag. The laptop bag (which will ship for around $150 when it’s available in a few weeks) includes a built-in sun shade, enabling outdoor use of the computer even in bright light.
Adobe released an update to their Camera Raw plug-in, adding support for a variety of digital cameras.
Extensis began showing Portfolio 7, their soon-to-be upgrade to the image cataloging application. Now in Beta, Portfolio 7 will be released first on the PC and then on the Mac, and features dozens of enhancements and improvements. The most interesting is a new network publisher tool, allowing Portfolio users to instantly publish web catalogs of their work using a variety of templates. The program can update these catalogs on-the-fly when new assets are added to folders.
The program can also handle batch IPTC and XMP metadata tagging, make one-click archive CD/DVDs, and perform batch image conversions. The Mac version is expected in May for $199.95 for five concurrent web connections or $999.95 for unlimited connections.